Micky – beloved TEARS mascot
If ever a rescue dog’s expression saved his life, it was true in Micky’s case.
This discarded mutt almost became another animal welfare statistic when he was rescued as a puppy from appalling circumstances in Masiphumelele. The victim of a motor vehicle accident, he sustained a horrific de-gloving injury to his foreleg – the flesh ripped off to the bone, which was broken and infected. To make matters worse, we only found him weeks after his accident, and he was also malnourished, had mange, as well as hip dysplasia.
The vet who attended to him, felt that it would be kindest to put him out of his misery. But, for TEARS that wasn’t an option; one look at that sad face and alluring expression, decided his fate, with profound consequences.
Micky spent a month at St Francis Vet in Bergvliet where, under the special care of Dr Futter, he received intensive treatment. Such was his charisma and enchanting disposition that we could not part with him.
Micky became the TEARS mascot and an important part of the TEARS family, delighting all who met him. Besides being a much loved family companion and friend to so many TEARS foster dogs, he brought such joy and entertainment to so many school children, friends, family, and TEARS staff and supporters, who had the privilege to interact with him.
Micky was definitely Mr Personality; a real showman who thrived on attention. One of his favourite ambassadorial duties was to accompany us when we visited schools as part of our education initiative – he was always at his happiest mingling with a class of school children. Over the years he played his part in helping children from disadvantaged communities appreciate the unconditional love a companion animal can give.
Micky accompanied the TEARS team on many outings and PR events and for these special occasions, one of his “aunties” – Aunty Bev – made him two bow ties and two tuxedos, one black and white and one jade green (the corporate colour of TEARS). These he wore with pride and many years ago, when the Penguin Festival was held in Simon’s Town, Micky would lead the procession down St George’s Street, resplendent in his black and white tuxedo and bow tie.
He loved having his photograph taken and, much to the amusement of people in his company, would, when he saw someone with a camera, jump up onto a chair if it was available, and sit, poke-faced, staring forward, sometimes proffering his injured leg, so that he could garner sympathy from those present.
When travelling in the TEARS Caravelle, his place was on the passenger seat, next to TEARS’ founder, Marilyn Hoole, and heaven help anyone who tried to usurp his seat. There were many occasions when TEARS staff or friends had to either share the seat with him or sit in the back – he wouldn’t give up his seat for anyone. His habit of sitting upright in the seat with his left paw on the door handle and his head hanging out of the window, surveying the passing scene amused so many people. In some of the disadvantaged communities where we worked, Micky’s antics would cause many laughs. The people would point and comment “Kyk dai hond! Hy sit nes ‘n mens in die motor”!
Micky’s last official engagement, for which he came out of retirement, was to attend the handover of a substantial donation to TEARS at Steenberg Golf Club – proceeds from the Cadiz/Steenberg Classic Golf Week. Sporting his green bow tie, he happily mingled with honoured guests, sponsors and beneficiaries, sitting on the feet of those to whom he took a particular liking.
How grateful we are that despite his severe hip displaysia and arthritis, he was able to live a long, full and relatively pain-free life. For the last five years he was fed Hill’s Prescription Joint Diet and Marilyn firmly believes that this food contributed greatly to his longevity as well as mobility in his senior years. He also received such wonderful care at St Francis Vet – our grateful thanks to Dr Graham Futter and Dr Pam Browell who, over the years, looked after him with such compassion.
Monday 27 January 2014 was indeed a blue Monday, when Micky, the loveable TEARS mascot crossed over Rainbow Bridge. His passing marked the end of an era. TEARS has celebrated 16 years of existence in 2015, and Micky was part of the TEARS organisation for 13 of those, playing a big role in promoting our cause and being our official ambassador and TEARS mascot.
His passing left a huge void in Marilyn’s life, but she has so many wonderful memories of a faithful companion who enriched her life. She will always cherish the special bond they shared, and we at TEARS like to think that Micky still looks over us sitting proudly in his TEARS waistcoat and bowtie.
Tahr – our most challenging rescue ever
Without a doubt, the most exciting and successful rescue we ever carried out was the amazing capture of Tahr from the mountainside above Simon’s Town, where he survived in the wild for five years, after his mother and her four-week old puppy were dumped there.
12 February 2006 is a day all those involved with TEARS at the time will never forget. After months of elaborate attempts by animal experts to remove Tahr from the mountain he was eventually snatched, bare-handed, in a daring rescue, by TEARS’ volunteers; Luke Kruyt, Natalie Barker, Danielle Kowen and Brian Currin. The headlines said: “Victory for TEARS as Tahr is snatched from the jaws of defeat”.
Mother dumped on mountain
The story began in 2001 when a female and puppies were dumped on the mountainside above Simon’s Town. Cindy Dollery, manager of Happy Valley Home (for destitute people), alerted TEARS as soon as she heard about the incident which had happened six weeks before.
TEARS was able to trap the mother dog and four of the puppies, who, by this time had become afraid of humans. One elusive pup evaded capture in spite of many and varied attempts over a six month period to catch him. He seemed to be at peace on the mountain, the place he had come to know as home since a six-week-old pup. TEARS made the decision to leave him there and named him Tahr, because, like the real tahrs on Table Mountain, he was struggling for survival. Cindy Dollery very kindly offered to put out food for him.
So, Tahr survived in his mountain habitat for five years, communing with baboons and guinea-fowl, miraculously avoiding illness, snakebites, accidents, biliary and other hazards. Over the years, TEARS kept in touch with Cindy, checking on Tahr’s well-being and visiting him from time-to-time.
Early in November 2005, Tahr’s peaceful existence was interrupted when staff from the Table Mountain National Park discovered his presence and ordered him off the mountain.
An appeal was made to the Parks Board to allow Tahr to stay in his ‘home’, but they said, “Dogs could not roam loose on the mountains because they posed a threat to smaller wildlife and could jeopardise the Klipspringer re-introduction programme which began in Simon’s Town the previous year”.
TEARS were devastated.
Having been a “free spirit” for five years, staff knew they could not subject him to confinement in a kennel, or to the noise encountered in a kennel environment.
The media were wonderful and gave the issue much publicity. Offers of support and help were received from so many compassionate and concerned people. The residents of Simon’s Town were up in arms; many of them had come to know Tahr and interacted with him when they walked on the mountainside. Residents of Admiral’s Kloof and Happy Valley Home had watched over him for years, providing him with food and water. Many people offered to adopt Tahr, but since he had lived in the wild for five years, much consideration had to be put into where he would go.
The Parks Board gave TEARS two weeks to remove Tahr from the mountain, but were very sympathetic and understanding and gave staff a number of time extensions. TEARS volunteers – Danielle Kowen, Luke Kruyt, Natalie Barker, Brian Currin and Jared Barker – visited Tahr almost daily, trying to win his trust. He always looked forward to their visits as they took canine friends for him to play with. Tahr fell for Luke’s dog, Shinga, a large Collie/German Shepherd X, and whenever Shinga arrived Tahr would forget his fear and come bounding down the mountain to meet her. But he still maintained an invisible barrier between himself and his would-be captors, staying just out of reach.
The Parks Board began to press TEAR to remove Tahr. A suitable home had still not been found, and a decision was made to relocate Tahr to the home of TEARS’ Director, Marilyn Hoole, on Boyes Drive, Lakeside. The fairly large property backed onto the mountainside, had a waterfall and a pond, and resembled the habitat Tahr was used to. An added bonus was that the volunteers involved in Tahr’s impending capture and rehabilitation would have free access to him if he was at Marilyn’s home. There was just one problem – it was not fully enclosed – there was no fence along the 40 metre lower boundary and some of the stone walls were not high enough. Volunteers responded to appeals and began clearing the bush on the lower boundary, and cleaning and repairing the pond. Businesses generously donated sand, stone, cement, poles and fencing.
A ticking clock
With Tahr’s new home almost ready for occupation, TEARS put into place a plan of action to capture him, but Tahr was not about to co-operate. At the first attempt, staff tried to subdue him with a muscle relaxant drug, but it had little effect on him. The next day they used a stronger tranquiliser, in food, and waited patiently for it to take effect; but it never did. That afternoon they doubled the dose, but still nothing happened. TEARS veterinarian at the time, Dr Wietz Botes, arranged to borrow a pole syringe from the SPCA, and the following morning TEARS staff were on the mountain early.
Luke, Natalie, Brian and Jared had to get permission from their respective schools to take time off. Danielle was on leave. TEARS staff and volunteers spent the better part of the day trying to jab Tahr with the pole syringe, but to no avail. He was too smart for them, and stayed just out of reach, or retreated to his favourite spot under the pine tree on the mountainside.
The Parks Board were beginning to lose faith in TEARS’ ability to capture Tahr, and after a further attempt to tranquilise him with a very strong drug failed, TEARS called in the help of Dr Hamish Currie, a local vet and game capturer. As luck would have it, a raging south east wind was blowing on the day he arrived, but Tahr took one look at this man with a big stick in his hand and retreated up the mountain. Hamish made a few more attempts over the next few days to dart Tahr, but the wind kept howling, making it impossible for the dart to find its mark.
Now TEARS was ordered off the mountain and were told by the Parks Board that they would use their own methods to remove him from the mountain, and that TEARS should stay away. The volunteers who had put so much time and effort into gaining Tahr’s trust were devastated. It seemed that Tahr’s fate was sealed. Danielle, Luke, Natalie, Brian and Jared couldn’t stay away. For the next three days they virtually camped on the mountain, from early morning till late in the evening, but not anywhere near where the Parks Board had set a trap, guarded by a security official. Tahr enjoyed this extra attention and spent most of his time near the TEARS volunteers, away from the trap.
An unforgettable day
On Sunday, 12 February, Luke and the volunteers decided to again spend the day with Tahr on the mountain.
That morning Tahr was more excited that usual to see them all. Luke had his dog, Shinga, with him which was an added bonus for Tahr who came bounding down the mountainside, completely forgetting to keep a safe distance between himself and the volunteers. Luke seized the moment and lunged at Tahr, grabbing him by the scruff, then his forelegs. Tahr struggled to break free, but Natalie came to Luke’s aid and held on to Tahr, putting her arms around his middle while he dragged her down the embankment towards the car where Danielle was waiting with a lead to muzzle him.
It all happened so quickly, but Brian managed to capture the events on video while he was trying to help subdue Tahr. Luke took control again and after Tahr was muzzled, held onto him securely while he was being bundled into the car. Tahr lay on Luke’s and Natalie’s laps, firmly held down by them, until they arrived at Marilyn’s house. Their injuries bore testimony to the fact that their daring rescue of Tahr had been no walk in the park: Danielle had a bite through the nail of her right index finger, sustained when she muzzled Tahr, Natalie was bitten on her right forearm, and Luke had sustained multiple lacerations to his chin, which would necessitate 17 stitches.
The group had first stopped off at Fourways Veterinary Clinic where Danielle explained the situation to Dr Tracy Dicks, who gave them a tranquiliser to be administered subcutaneously when Tahr arrived at his new home.
Once Tahr had been sedated at Marilyn’s house, the TEARS team carried him out into the garden and gently placed him on a blanket under the loquat tree, where they carefully examined him: He was full of ticks, and under his thick black and white coat, quite thin. The team treated him with Frontline and placed a collar and tag around his neck. The extreme paleness of his gums was cause for concern. Dr Simon Rabinowitz – a locum at Fish Hoek Vet – came out within twenty minutes to examine Tahr, also extracting blood to test for parasites.
Capturing the imagination
Tahr’s rescue on 12 February 2006 captured the imagination of animal lovers across the world, and barely a week went by without someone enquiring about his welfare.
Having lived in the wild for five years, our biggest concern was that he would not settle in his new environment and might even try to escape, but this fear was unfounded. Tahr took to his new home – with TEARS founder, Marilyn Hoole in Muizenberg – like a duck to water. While he always retained an element of wildness by not allowing himself to be touched, he behaved much like the other dogs in the household, sharing in their excitement when Marilyn arrived home, or barking when visitors arrived. If Marilyn was working in the kitchen or sitting having dinner, he would lie close by, but move away whenever she walked towards him.
Three years after his rescue, Marilyn wrote this for a newspaper:
“As I write this article, Tahr is lying close by on the carpet in my office, fast asleep. If the weather is good he will sometimes sleep at night in his “den” – a dense area of bush in front of the lower balcony, close to our bedroom. If it is raining, and depending on his mood, he will sleep on the floor next to the bed or on the bed in my office.
“Tahr is terrified of thunder, fireworks and gunshots. When we experience a thunderstorm, it is one of the few opportunities I have to touch him because he wants to be near to me. I sometimes wonder how he coped with loud noises when he lived on the mountain for five years exposed to the sounds of thunder on occasion, and enduring Naval firing exercises in Simon’s Bay.”
Marilyn went on to describe the close bond Tahr had developed with her Rough Collie cross, Lassie, who welcomed him to the pack, grooming him and spending time with him. Sadly, Lassie passed away a year after Tahr joined the family, and she feared for Tahr’s well-being. But he bonded with her other dogs, although his favourite friend was Micky – the canine face of TEARS.
In October 2009, Marilyn wrote the last chapter of Tahr’s life
“It is with a heavy and aching heart that I write this, the final chapter in the life of my beloved companion Tahr. Sadly, he had to be euthanased on Tuesday 27 October following complications with an enlarged heart.
“So, to an end came the life of an exceptional, incredible dog, a dog who touched so many hearts and lives. His amazing rescue, against all odds, captured the imagination of thousands of animal lovers.
“Our precious boy closed his eyes for the last time in the presence of his two special friends, Luke his rescuer and Marilyn his caregiver. My last moments with Tahr were so special. He allowed me to stroke his face, to kiss him on his soft, furry head, to put my face against his – something I desperately wanted to do all the years he was with me, but had been unable to do because I respected his reserve, his space, the element of wildness in his character and never wanted to distress him. It was as if, in his last moments, he wanted me to be close. As he slipped away I reflected on the relationship we had shared for over 3½ years; so special and unique.
“His passing has left a huge void in my life and in the lives of his friends. It is going to take a long time to come to terms with my loss. We shared a very special bond and I will always cherish the joy of our special relationship. Rest in peace my beloved boy. The journey with you, sharing your life, has been an experience I will always treasure. You will forever be with me in spirit and I will hold you close in my heart for the rest of my life.
“His spirit is now free to roam once again, perhaps on the mountains above Simon’s Town, where his journey of life began.”